Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Singapore's retirement age has to go at some point: DPM Tharman

By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2016

Singapore's retirement age has to go "at some point", said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a dialogue at the World Cities Summit yesterday.

It is critical that older workers be seen as assets to be continually invested in, rather than just as add- ons needed because employers cannot find younger workers in a tight labour market, he said.

Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, was speaking at the opening session of the World Cities Summit at Marina Bay Sands.

He outlined key challenges faced by growing cities, such as ageing societies, at the discussion, Towards A Liveable, Sustainable And Resilient Future.

"Older folks are an asset. They have wisdom, experience and they also learn on the job. We have to make this (integrating older workers) part and parcel of the workplace... We have not done it very well in Singapore so far and we have to do much better in this realm," he said.

His comments were in response to a question by Ambassador-at- large Tommy Koh, who moderated the dialogue between Mr Tharman and the audience of academics, policymakers and industry leaders from across the globe.

Professor Koh asked Mr Tharman if the Singapore Government could abolish compulsory retirement.

"I am 78 years old, I am working full-time and I think many older Singaporeans are like me. They don't dream of playing golf or lying on a beach. We want to continue to work and contribute to society," said Prof Koh.

Mr Tharman said Singapore does not have compulsory retirement but has a retirement age, like many other societies. "At some point, this (retirement age) has to go," he said, adding that older people are assets and they can keep learning even in their 50s or 60s as their brains continue to adapt.

The retirement age in Singapore is 62, though the re-employment age will rise from 65 to 67 next year. Workers turning 62 can opt to retire or continue working until the re-employment age ceiling.

In Parliament this year, Ms Jessica Tan, an MP for East Coast GRC, asked why the Manpower Ministry did not remove the retirement age.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said doing so could actually be worse for workers as it means that companies can terminate their employees' services earlier.

The other challenge that comes with an ageing population, said Mr Tharman, is healthcare, which has to be humane, affordable and convenient for people.

For instance, studies abroad have shown that less than 20 per cent of the time a person spends visiting a clinic or hospital is spent seeing the doctor, said Mr Tharman. The rest of the time is spent on travelling, queueing and waiting, and this is especially inconvenient for an older person with disability.

Telemedicine then, said Mr Tharman, is a huge opportunity for cities to tap so that seniors at home have peace of mind, knowing they have a nurse or doctor to get advice from.

In closing, Mr Tharman said innovation is going to be a source of inclusivity. "It is not a contradiction to say that we want a highly innovative society and open society as well as an inclusive society."

Technological advances can mitigate effects of urbanisation: DPM Tharman
By Liyana Othman, Channel NewsAsia, 11 Jul 2016

Cities around the world have one common challenge: To ensure that they are liveable, inclusive and sustainable places, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Monday (Jul 11).

As more people move into urban areas, cities will get larger, and increasing economic activities will continue to take in large amounts of energy which, in turn, generate greenhouse gas emissions, all of which will feed into the global climate change problem. But with technological innovations, Mr Tharman said there are ways to mitigate the effects.

“The whole industry of carbon capture and storage, the whole industry of energy efficiency is taking off. The technologies now make it possible in a way that it didn’t. Even in Singapore today," Mr Tharman said at the joint World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit held here.

"Our industrial structure does have high energy consumption industries and carbon dioxide emitting industries. And our goal is not to tell them to get out - our goal is to tell them to be leaders in the field of energy efficiency, and producing of carbon emissions, and technology allows this to be possible," he added.


On creating a liveable city, Mr Tharman noted that long-term thinking in governance is important.

“Whether it’s social mobility, or energy efficiency, tackling climate change requires time. It’s not something that can be achieved in one electoral term or even two. It takes time," he said.

"It involves investment in R&D, it involves changes in the way our society is organised, the type of urban planning, the type of education that gives people the chance for better lives. All these things take time. Short-termism is the enemy of social mobility, and it’s the enemy of efforts to create the most liveable cities."

For example, many cities may face problems with shortage of infrastructure. To tackle this issue, governments need to look at new financing methods to enhance and expand infrastructure. This does not always mean investing in more infrastructure, but instead, finding ways to better utilise existing assets. Mr Tharman pointed out that the sharing economy, in this case, has “tremendous potential”.

Another important aspect of a liveable city is accountability on the part of governments, with the help of technology, and investing in big data and data analytics.

Mr Tharman highlighted the OneService Mobile App, which allows the public to give feedback on municipal issues hassle-free. About 46,000 cases were reported since January 2015, and it takes about six days to resolve each case. He said the aim is to continue to bring that time down, as technology now gives the Government no excuse to not address the public’s concerns quickly.


On inclusivity, Mr Tharman said there must be strategies to give people good jobs so that their lives can be improved.

“We have to find ways in which taking advantage of an open global economy, taking advantage of technology, doesn’t mean that some people win, some people lose, and the net result is a zero sum case," said the Deputy Prime Minister. "There will always be some people winning more than others. But everyone has to basically see their lives improve. And it requires Government intervention."

"Working with communities, working with businesses, can ensure that it’s not a zero-sum game. We’ve got to help everyone who’s losing out," he said, adding that governments must continue to reinvest in people throughout different stages of their lives, even as they grow old.

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